Pilgrimage in Asia


Hirado

Pilgrimage in Asia is extremely easy. 

Sites that are sacred to someone are all over the place. You’d almost have to intentionally avoid them (or just be oblivious) to miss them.



Asia is the birthplace of many of the world’s religions—Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Sikhism, Confucianism, Taoism … 

You get my point.

Even religions that weren’t born there have either a large minority or a rich history somewhere (or multiple somewheres) in Asia.

Islam occurs in abundance in Southeast Asia and India.

There have been Jewish communities throughout Asia for a couple of millennia.

Same goes for Christianity, which arrived peacefully in the south of India via merchant ships earlier than it reached most of Europe. (Which then makes it a bit ironic that some later European colonists took issue with Indian Christian forms of worship, since the Indians had a longer history in the faith ... all of which should remind us to focus on essentials, not forms.)

And while Christianity has had a sometimes-conflicted relationship with its new homes in East Asia, there have been vibrant (if sometimes hidden) communities in places like Japan and China, as well as a significant minority in South Korea (who gained Christianity via Korean diplomats to China and Japan). Christianity is growing in Asia and the global south, even as it declines elsewhere.

In short, that means you’ll practically be tripping over pilgrimage sites while you’re in Asia. All you need to add is a little bit of time and intention—the heart of pilgrimage—in order to make that kind of questing journey.

 


Pilgrimage Destinations in Asia

Apart from occasional transportation limitations, what is truly difficult about pilgrimage in Asia is narrowing down your choices.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed. 

You could simply take the journey as it comes—part of pilgrimage is learning to accept what the journey brings, accept that it is well. To not insist on unnecessary comforts or specifics.

There are many wonderful choices for pilgrimage in Asia. Here I’ll highlight some of them. (If there’s a listing but no link, it means that page is in works…coming soon.)

INDIA

  • Dilwara Jain Temples in Mount Abu  Lots of temples and a church or two in Rajasthan’s only hill station. These are elaborately carved from cool, white marble.
  • Great Wall of India — The 2nd-longest wall in the world, surrounding Kumbhalgarh Fort and its 364 temples!

JAPAN

  • Hidden Christian Sites in Nagasaki – When centuries of suppression & persecution ended ... many hidden Christians were revealed!
  • Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage  – There are only 2 UNESCO World Heritage trails in the world: the Camino de Santiago in Europe and the Kumano Kodo in Japan.

 


Things to Know for Pilgrimage in Asia

  • Because of covid, some sites (or countries, for that matter) may be closed or have restricted entry or requirements. These are an ever-moving target. Be sure to do your research!
  • It’s typically easy to find group tours with guides who speak English (and other languages), as well as the local language. If you’re uncomfortable with charting your own course in a strange place, this might be a good way to go for portions of the journey.
  • Even if you’ll have a guide, do try to learn at least a few basic phrases in the language of the place you’re visiting. This is a courteous thing to do. And how else can you be sure you can order the yummy snacks when you’re out wandering around if you don’t know how to ask for them?  ;) (Of course, if you butcher it, they may speak English to you anyway, but don’t let that stop you. Embrace the adventure!)



Inspiration for the journey ...

Dilwara Jain Temples

The thing I remember most about the Dilwara Jain Temples in Mount Abu was the delicious feel of the cool, clean marble on my feet. This pilgrimage site for...

Walking Shoes

The most important pilgrimage gear item: Let’s talk walking shoes. Actually, let’s talk feet & the shoes that go on them. Because if you’re setting off...